I wish I hadn't listened to the radio interview with Gary Megson before writing this. I was proper fuming after the game. It was simply not good enough. Not in any way. Normally I will defend the manager and look for the positives. But not today.
However, after listening to him on the radio I feel a bit sorry for him. And I shouldn't. He screwed things up today.
We lined up in a 5-3-2:
Eaden, Cullip, Taylor, Breckin (c), Padula,
Southall, Gardener, Commons,
Last time I came to Barnsley the place was packed and we saw a seven goal thriller (we won 4-3, just holding on at the end). That was a long time ago and I wasn't expecting the same in my first encounter with the Third Division. However, I was quite surprised at how few people there were. We must have brought three thousand, they probably had about eight thousand and the place was half empty.
Kick off with Forest playing towards us. It took about three minutes for the first chant of "Scab". And another couple of minutes before Johnno went off injured after being clattered three times. Dadi came on to replace him. And not long after, Dobie headed the ball in and their keeper made a good save.
And then it all fell apart. Every single ball was in the air. Mainly a "high ball into the channels" for Dobie and Dadi to fail to run onto. At first Dobie was the crowd's boo-boy but it quickly became Pedersen, who was guilty of just hoofing the ball to the Barnsley defence every time he received the ball.
A scrambled corner (or some sort of set-piece) and the ball ended up in the back of our net. We carried on as before punting the ball long, then Barnsley broke and someone fired a shot from about twenty yards that flew in past Pedersen. A good goal but we simply didn't defend it.
More long balls, Pedersen and the back three in particular ignoring the yellow shirts and hoofing it forwards to the Barnsley back four. Dobie and Dadi had no chance at all and we may as well have not had a midfield. Every time the ball went in the air we booed, with an accompaniment of "on the floor" and "stand up if you hate long ball". Until half time.
The second half saw David Friio come on for Gareth Taylor and we switched to a 4-4-2 formation. And it started to come good. Pedersen rolled the ball out to Padula (cheer), who short passed it along the ground to Gardener (cheer). Little triangles of short passes between Gardener, Commons, Padula and Dadi (cheer, cheer, cheer, cheer) saw Dadi get behind the defence and play a good cross into Dobie. Really nice football resulting in a goal-scoring chance. A few minutes later and Perch came on to replace Southall, slotting in to the right wing spot. More short passing, little triangles, the ball never leaving the ground - and more cheers. Cue "it's just like watching Brazil". We may have been two-nil down but it was good to watch and we were starting to look like we could pull this back.
And this is why it's Megson's fault. Perch suddenly switched to being centre-half, with Gardener on the right and Friio in the middle of a midfield 3. And we went back to lumping the ball into the channels for Dobie to fail to control or Dadi to run into trouble with. Why did we change formation again, from one that was working to one that blatantly failed in the first half? The only thing I could think of was that Megson was doing it to spite us for cheering "our" way of playing - stupid I know but the logic escapes me. By the end I was actually hoping that Barnsley scored again (Mac, who I had brought along for a birthday "treat" wanted to leave early - I refused), just to make sure that it was crystal clear how shockingly bad things were.
At the final whistle Megson was roundly booed as he left for the tunnel. At least he acknowledged in his interview how hard that walk was. The players had torrents of abuse heaped on them as they left the field - apart from Kris Commons, who at least had the grace to applaud us (getting a round of applause in return - apparently Breckin did the same but I didn't see that). And we gave Barnsley a standing ovation as they entered the tunnel.
As I mentioned before, I always defend the manager (even David Platt) and always look for the positives. But Nottingham Forest Football Club have used up all my goodwill. There's no margin for error anymore. I was wishing that Barnsley would get three or four. I was booing my own team every time they hoofed it upfield. The thought struck me that the last time I had seen a Forest side launch the balls "into the channels" like this was under the afore-mentioned Mr Platt and it wasn't a strategy that worked then (the loan signing of John Terry saving us from relegation then - not much chance of that this season). Megson implied that the players were not doing what he asked of them in his interview. Sorry, but he had been in the paper during week stating that possession counted for nothing without results (fair enough) and we needed to move the ball forwards quickly (sounds like hoofing to me). In his post-match interview he said that they had practiced playing the balls into the channels for DJ and Dobie to run onto. Which suggests to me that the only time that they didn't do what he wanted was when we played it on the ground and got the crowd cheering. Sorry Gary but my patience has gone - and I don't blame the players, as for that ten minutes they showed that they are a cut above anyone in this division (and Megson has bought well).
What is most worrying is I can remember Sheffield Wednesday's fall from grace. No matter who they bought, they were rubbish (and they had some quality players - Paulo di Canio and Kavicevic (sp?) who ended up top scorer in Serie A after leaving). There was something rotten at the club that drained the talent from the players and dragged them down through the leagues. Unfortunately, the same is happening to us. There is something rotten at the heart of this club and it is going to take some fundamental change to shift it. I thought Megson might do it with his total rebuild of the playing staff - but it seemst to run deeper than that. Megson mentioned in his interview that the fans don't like him. I actually do (not on today's performance though) - and it's not his fault that he's in this position. But something needs to change and very very fast. Or we won't just be the first former European champions to play in the third division - it will be the fourth or worse.